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Freud's Legacy

Deceitful Model?:

Freud's controversial ideas have had vast implications far beyond psychiatry alone.

On May 6, 1856, Sigmund Freud was born. He is one of Dave Breese's "Seven Men Who Rule the World from Their Graves,"1 and Freud's original and controversial ideas have had vast implications far beyond psychiatry alone-in art, entertainment, education, and political conduct-and in shaping the dominant world view so pervasive in our modern society.

As a creative physician specializing in treating the mentally ill, Sigmund Freud developed a comprehensive theory concerning the psychological structure and functioning of the human mind. One can't deal with any model of the human personality without putting into perspective the impact of Sigmund Freud upon our prevailing conceptions and even our common vocabulary.2

The Subconscious

Freud recognized that the complex of mental activities within an individual proceed without his conscious awareness. He believed his own complicated set of early memories were decisive in determining many of his later decisions.3 Often, hidden experiences seem to influence subsequent behavior, defying conscious, deliberate, rational intent. Freud distinguished among different levels of consciousness. Behind a person's immediate field of awareness there seemed to lie deeper levels of preconscious and subconscious activity.4

In his early practice, Freud became convinced that aberrant behavior in the present could be traced to experiences in the past, even as a very young child. It appeared, at first, that behind the apparent neuroses of a patient was some kind of aberrant sexual practice. It was later that he began to have doubts about what his patients had said.5 He began to realize that most of the seductions his patients had reported had, in fact, never taken place. He concluded that they were simply attributing their symptoms to imaginary traumata which they themselves had created in fantasies.6 (It is interesting that these notions continue to dominate some of the destructive psychological fads of today, such as "repressed memory syndrome," and others.)7

It was at this point that Freud also developed the Oedipus complex,8 the subconscious tendency of a child to be attached to the parent of the opposite sex and hostile toward the parent of the same sex. Freud advanced the idea that the persistence of this complex into adult life results in neurotic disorders of many kinds.

It was Freud's explorations and conjectures that led to many of the present concepts of psychoanalysis. The attribution of the origin of neurotic symptoms to conflicts that have been removed from consciousness, through a process called repression, is now a major tenet of psychoanalytic theory derived from Freud and his followers.

Freud created these delineations in his own mind and then super-imposed them on his patients' personalities.

Freud's Model of the Self

As Freud continued to develop his ideas, he saw the human personality as consisting of three somewhat overlapping components: the id, the ego, and the superego.

The id, to Freud, was the repository of the dark, elemental components of the human personality-a caldron of seething emotions-the passions, irrationalities, and, primitive elements of human nature.

Superimposed upon the id was the ego-the entity through which the id interacted with the outside world. It formulated the personality, selectively accepting and rejecting the emergent emanations from the id.

Above these components was the superego-something like, but not quite, the conscience. It, in a somewhat judgmental sense, brought into consciousness the ideas of guilt or approval. The ego then reacts to the moral dictates of the superego, rebelling against them or submitting to them. Behind these entities were a pairof instincts-the life instinct and the death instinct-that produce the energies accumulated in the id. For Freud, the libido was the great reality: the life force, broadly associated with the sexual instinct. He saw this as the universal motivation for all things.

This was the Freudian picture of the human inner being that moved into the consciousness and table talk of our present world. We all have found ourselves employing his concepts and vocabulary at one time or another.

Freud created these arbitrary delineations in his own mind and then superimposed them on the personalities attributed to his patients. Although his data came from unconfirmed and unconfirmable testimony of privately interviewed patients, fascination with his ideas began throughout his world and has continued into ours.

However, the professional class, even then, were less convinced and analyzed him to the point of repudiation. Although the outside world was captured by his titillating theories, his contemporaries, including Eugen Bleuler, Carl G. Jung, Alfred Adler, and others broke away from him. Even to this day, recent articles have continued to cast serious doubts on the efficacy of psychoanalysis and its related arts.9

Social Implications

With all of its confusing contradictions, the influences of Freud have had a profound and subversive effect on the thinking of our present age. He changed man's understanding of himself and his nature. Perhaps the most critical influence Freud has had upon society was his invention of a new determinism by which man does what he does and becomes what he becomes. He saw the libido as the prime mover. This legacy has dragged sex into the streets, our homes, into every nook and cranny of our lives-and has also filled our psychiatrists' couches.

Sexual determinism, however, is a fascinating, attractive, titillating lie. We have poured our youthful energies into the sinking sands of time. The combination of Darwinism, values relativism, and the physiological determinism of Freud has plunged our society into moral free fall.

Freud's notions have also been picked up in an ominous way by totalitarian society. Paul Johnson notes, "The notion of regarding dissent as a form of mental sickness, suitable for compulsory hospitalization, was to blossom in the Soviet Union into a new form of political repression."10

It is terrifying to see the same signs on our own domestic horizon with enforced "political correctness." It is frightening to note that those who harbor dissenting views of independence, traditional family values, and other Biblically based attitudes are now being labeled as "extremist nuts," "kooks," and the like.

Dave Breese suggests, "In giving us the determinism of libido, Freud did at least two things. First, he caused the world to concentrate on libido to the point of addiction. Second, he legitimized the creation of determinisms, thereby opening the door for the invention of the plethora of other determinisms that are being concocted in the minds of the would-be pied pipers of our time."11

The Fallacies

What is the determinism that really makes man what he is? The most significant force moving through history is not Darwin's natural selection, Marx's economic determinism, or Freud's libido. It is the Will of God. There is nothing else of significance in life except that: God and His perfect Will for man. Paul points out, "We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth."12

The key to all reality is the intelligent human will responding affirmatively to the Will of God. One of the primary insights is given to us by God Himself:

And God said, `Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth.' So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He them; male and female created He them.(Genesis 1:26-27)

Profound beyond description is the assertion that we are images of the Creator of the Universe. Man is not merely a collection of psychological forces. Neither are we a subspecies of the animals. Freud was one of the great deceivers, confusing millions as to the nature of man and ignoring the nature of God.

Freud concentrated on himself to the exclusion of the Being by whose creative power and present grace we are able to continue our existence. (And God has given us His map of our inner being in the architecture of the Temple.)13

The believing Christian makes no such mistake. He recognizes that the soul of man grows out of the interaction between the body and spirit and is the means by which man communicates to the outside world. Through faith in Jesus Christ, the believer possesses the indwelling source of God's life from whom he is possessed with joy, fulfillment, and victory.

Psychology is ultimately doomed to frustration since it cannot penetrate beyond the psyche (soul)14: it is impossible to infer, from external behavior, the internal architecture of software running on a computer since it is a self-modifying entity inside an infinite state machine.15 Similarly, it is impossible to validly infer the inner structure of Man from observing his external behavior.

Furthermore, while psychology recognizes the destructive and corrosive role of guilt in the human psyche, it can only address the symptom, not the cause. The root problem is sin. Values relativism can't recognize it. Psychology has no ability to deal with it.

Only God can-and he already has. That is the core issue in the entire Biblical drama: His redemption of a fallen race through the ultimate love affair; a narrative written in blood on a wooden cross erected in Judea almost two thousand years ago. Have you availed yourself of its healing and its liberation from bondage in your life?

This article was excerpted from the book Be Ye Transformed.